Before the pandemic took hold, and the housing crisis was obvious but less urgent politically, a bill was introduced in Maryland that could have permanently reshaped the area’s housing landscape.

In January, Delegate Vaughn Stewart (who represents Montgomery County) introduced a suite of bills dubbed “Homes for All” in hopes of increasing affordable housing options statewide. One of the bills, the Social Housing Act, would have tackled the dearth of affordable housing head-on by laying the foundation for construction of publicly-owned, permanently-affordable, mixed-income residential developments.

These resulting “social housing” units would create a similar system of housing to those in European cities like Vienna, where state-owned housing is more prevalent. Maryland’s social housing units would have been funded, in part, via an increase to real estate transfer tax rates for properties sold for at least $1 million.

Although the bill was withdrawn in March, Delegate Stewart told UrbanTurf that they are working on simplifying and tweaking the legislation based on feedback in preparation for reintroducing it this year.

“It’s generating more attention from House leadership [than] in years past due to the increased focus on affordable housing during the pandemic. We’re cautiously optimistic.”

As for the other bills in the package, the Tenant Protection Act, which strengthens tenants’ rights, passed the House but did not make it to the Senate floor for a vote before the session ended; a reintroduction is in the works. Meanwhile, although a watered-down version of the Modest Home Choices Act passed the House this year, localized zoning would still stand in the way of the missing middle-focused bill, so the Delegate may pursue other options in the future.

 

(Urban Turf, photo via Shutterstock)